Background: Evidence is growing that sleep problems in adolescents are significant impediments to learning and negatively affect behaviour, attainment of social competence and quality of life. The objectives of the study were to determine the level of sleepiness among students in high school, to identify factors to explain it, and to determine the association between sleepiness and performance in both academic and extracurricular activities
Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 2201 high school students in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board and the Near North District School Board in Ontario was conducted in 1998/9. A similar survey was done three years later involving 1034 students in the Grand Erie District School Board in the same Province. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) was used to measure sleepiness and we also assessed the reliability of this tool for this population. Descriptive analysis of the cohort and information on various measures of performance and demographic data were included. Regression analysis, using the generalised estimating equation (GEE), was utilized to investigate factors associated with risk of sleepiness (ESS>10).
Results: Seventy per cent of the students had less than 8.5 hours weeknight sleep. Bedtime habits such as a consistent bedtime routine, staying up late or drinking caffeinated beverages before bed were statistically significantly associated with ESS, as were weeknight sleep quantity and gender. As ESS increased there was an increase in the proportion of students who felt their grades had dropped because of sleepiness, were late for school, were often extremely sleepy at school, and were involved in fewer extracurricular activities. These performance measures were statistically significantly associated with ESS. Twenty-three percent of the students felt their grades had dropped because of sleepiness. Most students (58-68%) reported that they were "really sleepy" between 8 and 10 A.M.
Conclusion: Sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness were common in two samples of Ontario high school students and were associated with a decrease in academic achievement and extracurricular activity. There is a need to increase awareness of this problem in the education and health communities and to translate knowledge already available to strategies to address it.